Russia said on Thursday that the United States was behind what it says was a drone attack on the Kremlin that aimed to kill President Vladimir Putin, while Moscow’s forces fired more combat drones at Ukrainian cities including the capital Kyiv.
A day after blaming Ukraine for what it called a terrorist attack, the Kremlin administration shifted the focus onto the United States, but without providing evidence. The White House was quick to reject the charge.
Ukraine has also denied involvement in the incident early Wednesday, when video footage showed two flying objects approaching the Senate Palace inside the Kremlin walls and one exploding with a bright flash.
Astonishing footage of last night's drone attack on the Kremlin pic.twitter.com/3rghCHdIed
— Francis Scarr (@francis_scarr) May 3, 2023
“Attempts to disown this, both in Kyiv and in Washington, are, of course, absolutely ridiculous. We know very well that decisions about such actions, about such terrorist attacks, are made not in Kyiv but in Washington,” said Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
He said the United States was “undoubtedly” behind the incident and added – again without stating evidence – that Washington often selected both the targets for Ukraine to attack, and the means to attack them.
“This is also often dictated from across the ocean … In Washington they must clearly understand that we know this,” Peskov said.
White House national security spokesman John Kirby told MSNBC television the Russian claims were false, and that Washington does not encourage or enable Ukraine to strike outside its borders.
Russia has said with increasing frequency that it sees the United States as a direct participant in the war, intent on inflicting a “strategic defeat” on Moscow. The United States denies that, saying it is arming Ukraine to defend itself and retake territory that Moscow has seized illegally in more than 14 months of war.
CALLS TO KILL ZELENSKYY
Putin was not in the Kremlin at the time, and security analysts have poured scorn on the idea that the incident was a serious assassination attempt.
But Russia has said it reserves the right to retaliate, and hardliners including former president Dmitry Medvedev have said it should now “physically eliminate” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Peskov declined to say whether Moscow saw Zelenskyy as a legitimate target.
He said Russia had an array of options and the response would be carefully considered and balanced. He said an urgent investigation was underway.
KYIV, ODESA TARGETED
Earlier, Russia fired two dozen combat drones at Ukraine, hitting Kyiv for the third time in four days and also striking a university campus in the Black Sea city of Odesa, ahead of a major counteroffensive by Ukraine to recapture occupied land.
There were no reports of any casualties.
Kyiv’s city administration said Russia had probably fired ballistic missiles as well as drones but that they had all been shot down.
“The Russians attacked Kyiv using Shahed loitering munitions and missiles, likely the ballistic type,” it said.
Ballistic missiles are difficult to shoot down, and their downing could indicate Ukraine used sophisticated Western-supplied air defense systems against them.
In total, air defenses shot down 18 of 24 “kamikaze” drones in the pre-dawn attack, officials said. Of 15 drones fired at Odesa, 12 were downed but three struck a university campus, the southern military command said.
The death toll from Russian shelling of Kherson and its environs in southern Ukraine on Wednesday rose to 23, regional governor Oleksandr Prokudin said.
“The enemy’s targets are the places where we live. Their targets are our lives and the lives of our children,” he said in an online video on Thursday, after a hypermarket, a railway station, and residential buildings were hit.
‘FULL POWER OF JUSTICE’
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited the International Court of Justice (ICC) in The Hague on Thursday and said Putin must be brought to trial over the war.
The ICC in March issued an arrest warrant for Putin for the suspected deportation of children from Ukraine.
“The aggressor must feel the full power of justice. This is our historical responsibility,” Zelenskyy said in a speech.
Russia, which is not a member of the ICC and rejects its jurisdiction, denies committing atrocities during its “special military operation” in Ukraine, which it says is needed to protect its own security against a hostile, aggressive West.
Zelenskyy, whose country has received substantial Western military and financial support, has vowed to drive all invading Russian forces back to the borders established in 1991 following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
There are currently no peace talks to end the war, which has devastated Ukrainian towns and cities, killed thousands of people, and driven millions from their homes.
The Kremlin said on Thursday it was aware that Pope Francis was thinking about ways to end the war, but that it did not know of any detailed peace plans from the Vatican.
Copyright 2023 Thomson/Reuters